Monday 9 April 2012

Travelling Through a Wormhole and Preparing to Visit America

FRIDAY WEEKS AGO: Lunch on this icy cold day -- with the streets clear but solid snow left where tyres don't touch -- is tinned pink salmon with yogurt, capers and caper vinegar, chopped red pepper and spring onion, tarragon, a little Chinese 5-spice, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. It's interesting, and I quite like the impulsive pinch of 5-spice I put in after previously deciding on the tarragon. I think next time I would avoid the tarragon and use perhaps parsley. Yes, that sounds right. The drops of Tabasco work perfectly, and a couple of drops of sherry would set it all off perfectly.

TUESDAY WEEKS LATER: I've been so engrossed in the wonderful poetry, wit, and beat-pop-art-era commentary of The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagen that I've been neglecting writing during my lunchtime. But I finished the book today, and now I can get back to my own observations about life, the Brits, and lunch.

My flight to Los Angeles next month is booked, so I've got to start thinking about what I want to take (could I smuggle out some Stilton for my mom?) and what I want to bring back (a selection of Mexican and Southwest chile powders, some masa harina, Louisiana-style dried red beans, and Trader Joe's almond butter and handmade corn tortillas). I'd like to bring back a pitcher of my mom's margaritas but they wouldn't travel well.

While I'm in America I plan to do the things an American West Coast native misses while living in a Yorkshire city, such as take a few walks on the beach, listen to the seagulls overhead, see a lot of palm trees, eat good Mexican food, have a bagel with Nova lox at a good Jewish deli, and sit in my mother's back garden and feed peanuts to the bluejays.

THURSDAY MANY WEEKS LATER: I honestly think I accidentally stepped into some sort of wormhole, emerging Many Weeks Later. What happened to the time? Since my last blog it's been winter and spring, with a winter snowfall suddenly occurring yesterday after a week of summer. And I'm still in Sheffield preparing to fly to Los Angeles. I'm supposedly at work just before the long Easter weekend, but I'm not sure I really know exactly where or when.

But I do know what my lunch is: an Edam and sun-tomato sandwich on a gruyere and onion roll. Very simple yet satisfying. Men in suits are standing near me in the library café, and the fridge on the other side of the panel protecting me is grinding away at a deafening volume.

Although I always travel very light to the US, with my carry-on-sized wheelie bag and my backpack, I may have to buy a couple more suitcases before I return to the UK, as my British workmates want me to bring back a suitcase full of proper Mexican food and bagels, and my supervisor wants me to bring back another suitcase full of proper California wine, eg. the gems California keeps for itself and not the rotgut like Blossom Hill and Jackrabbit that UK wine shops pass off as the California wine experience. But I'm afraid, in the interest of not only my travelling-light habits but also my weak back, that I'm not doing such a thing at all. They will all just have to save up for their own trips to California to experience these things.

As with all of my visits to my home country, I plan whilst there to consume as much Mexican food as possible. (Obviously with my small appetite I mean as often as possible, not as much in quantity as I can stuff down my gullet.) And hopefully there will be at least one Chile relent burrito in this schedule. The other culinary pastimes that I miss from living in Sheffield and that I want to experience are lunch at a decent Jewish deli (with proper bagels and Nova lox), a Thai meal or two, a Greek meal, and at least one of my mother's excellent margaritas. And recently I've had an odd nostalgic craving that I'd like to indulge just once before I die: I'd like to have a proper plain buttermilk doughnut.

Obviously there is the other side of this coin. For instance, there is a list of unique British and even Sheffield items I'd love to smuggle in so that my American friends and family can benefit: a chunk of proper Stilton cheese, another of crumbly Wensleydale cheese, some haloumi cheese (which is possible to find but ridiculously expensive in America). a bag of Rooster red baking potatoes, some Longley Farm yogurt and cottage cheese (the best examples of both these items in the universe), a bottle of Scapa single malt whisky, and a few mini casks of wonderful ales including one of Blue Bee Nectar Best, one of Ossett Pale Gold, one of Mordue Worky Ticket, one of Thornbridge Jaipur, and one of Abbeydale Deception.

On second thought perhaps I should just hire a container to ship a few things back and forth...

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